their families, populations migrate.
As the pope says, migrants want what
we all want: a decent life where safety
and employment are possible.
In a rare joint statement, the U.S.
and Mexican bishops have offered
five key Catholic ideas about immi-
gration to illuminate the discussion:
1. People have the right to find
opportunities in their homeland.
This right isn’t limited to jobs. It in-
cludes economic, political, and social
opportunities to live in dignity with
a just, living wage.
2. People have the right to
migrate to support themselves
and their families.
All the goods of the earth belong to
all people. (The Sioux are right: We
do not own the land!) When people
can’t support their families, they have
a right to seek work elsewhere. Nations should accommodate this right.
CATHOLIC SISTERS, priests, and brothers have
been involved with helping immigrants and
refugees for much of U.S. history. Sister Rachel
Sena, O.P. shares a smile with two of her literacy
students at Maya Ministry in Lake Worth, Florida.
3. Nations have the right to
control their borders.
The church recognizes this right
but rejects control merely to acquire
additional wealth. Wealthier nations
have a stronger obligation to accommodate immigrants than others.
4. Refugees and asylum seekers
The global community must protect
those fleeing war and persecution.
Migrants have a right to refugee
status without being jailed as their
claims are considered.
5. The dignity and rights of
undocumented migrants should
The inherent human dignity of all
persons must be respected. Govern-
ment policies must respect the hu-
man rights of the undocumented.
(from Strangers No Longer: To-
gether on the Journey of Hope, 2003,
Pope Francis suggests we all
benefit from establishing a “culture
of encounter.” Knowing people
makes them real for us. Bumping
heads with those who migrate may
not be the gentlest mode of encounter, but many have no choice but to
be here. Migrating people are often
forced into swift and penetrating
changes they would not otherwise
choose. When they arrive among us,
we’re obliged to change, too.
We all fear the loss of identity
encounters with strangers initiate.
But as history and the gospel teaches
us, they can be embraced as oppor-
tunities for invigorating, challenging,
and transformational growth. =
“Heaping helpings of mercy.”
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